Football scout. The words conjure up images of a lone figure grimly patrolling the touchline, sheltering from the wind and rain with just a flat cap, a notebook and a cup of Bovril for company.
And whilst this is still the reality for many of these footballing prospectors, today they have one hugely important ally – technology.
Intel technology is powering a revolution in the way we identify football talent and whilst the questions remain the same – “Where is the next Harry Kane?”, “Who is our next opponent’s dangerman?” – the way we find the answers is now very different.
Until fairly recently scouts simply wrote up and posted their reports to the chief scout, who would file them carefully away in the office filing cabinet. Stats would then be obtained from hard sources such as matchday programs and annual yearbooks, which were only updated once at the end of each season and only included basic information such as appearances and goals. It wasn’t the most efficient or thorough process.
The scouting game started to change in the early 2000s when Scout7 launched with an online ColdFusion database architecture into which users entered worldwide match information that would then automatically update player and match statistics. Scout7’s team of researchers, based all over the world, managed and maintained the input of match, player and transfer information on a daily basis. Within months, a massive live online football database was born. Scout7 used this to populate data into individually tailored private applications for clubs to manage their scouting data from anywhere in the world.
Today, Scout7 helps over 125 clubs in 30 football leagues around the world organize and access data to allow them to do what they do best – focus on the football. In an environment increasingly reliant on video content and big data analytics, Scout7’s platform uses Intel technology to deliver the computing power and video transcoding speed that clubs need to mine and analyze more than 3 million minutes of footage per year, and holds 135,000 active player records.
Scout7 Managing Director Lee Jamison picks up the story: “Football isn’t just a game; it’s big business. It’s therefore increasingly looking towards big data analytics to inform decision-making. Our platform, powered by Intel technology, is enabling clubs to meet their business, as well as their on-field goals.
“From scouting, recruitment and player development through to strategy and squad selection, hard data is supplementing scouts’ subjective experience to give clubs the best chance of making the right decisions, both on and off the field. A lot of this data increasingly comes in unstructured formats, especially video. With access to more sophisticated cloud storage solutions and video-sharing facilities, clubs now have as many as 100 new games available on video every day and a video library of 110,000 games. They’re no longer reliant on what they saw on TV or in the favorable footage a player’s agent chooses to share with them.
“Using Intel® Quick Sync Video, we can transcode footage of each new match in 30 to 45 minutes, making it available to clubs for analysis just two hours after the final whistle. It used to be anything from six to twelve hours so this makes a huge difference to our business. This speed of delivery is crucial for a club that may only have a short window between its opponent’s last game and an impending match to analyze the footage and make strategic decisions that could win or lose the next game. We provided a lot of feedback on the Quick Sync technology and I believe this feedback has helped drive even better technology performance.
“Through our partnership with Intel we now offer big data analytics capabilities, with graphic capabilities powered by Intel® Xeon® processor E3-1285 v3 product family-based servers, with Intel®
HD Graphics P4700 built into the chip, which clubs can access through the cloud.
“On a day to day level, we support both tablet and desktop environments which really helps – the desktop is ideal for video analysis or if you need processing power but if you want quick information then touch screen would be more appropriate. In simple terms, Intel technology has transformed the way we operate – what we do now and the way we process data and video simply could not have happened five years ago.”
All of this cutting edge technology has a huge impact for the beautiful game. It means clubs and players can analyze past performance and how it relates to training schedules and match preparation. This insight can inform future decisions about who to put on the pitch. It also means that clubs can manage the long-term evolution of their player roster by planning for future transfer windows and all recruitment activity six to twelve months in advance. And also, as data volume and computing power continue to grow, the platform has potential for use pitchside, in the commentator’s box, and in other sports.
And, of course, as our thoughts again turn to the home nations and this weekend’s Euro 2016 qualifiers, the holy grail is to unearth the next Gareth Bale, the next Scott Brown or the next Harry Kane. With technology like this on our side we have a much better chance of succeeding.